Sunday, May 28, 2006

Country, Rock, Judgment and Eric Burdon

I recently posted some Steve Earle on the other blog I write for, and it got me thinking once again about country music lyrics, judgment and Eric Burdon. These connections have been in my head for awhile, but I'’ve never laid them out in essay form, partially because I haven'’t fully formed the arguments. But if my World Lit professor was correct, the word essay comes from the French word meaning attempt. So here'’s my attempt, in outline form. Leave a comment if you'’d like to help flesh it out or dispute it. I just need to eject this tape from my head. It's getting a little warped:

Country music lyrics seem driven by judgment. Judgment of others, of self, of life on earth. Or if you're Johnny Cash or Merle Haggard, judgment by the American justice system. Here are some examples, in pure and hybrid form:

Your Cheatin'’ Heart - Hank Williams

Christine'’s Tune - Flying Burrito Brothers

Dark End Of The Street (actually an R&B tune countrified by Flying Burrito Bros.)

Sin City - Flying Burrito Brothers

Rock lyrics on the other hand, especially after the psychedelic era, don't involve as much judgment, at least not the kind of judgment we hear in the Christian warnings about sin by the Burritos. Let's take a quick look at the career of Eric Burdon to see this. During the pre-psychedelic mid 60'’s, while in The Animals, Eric sang about fighting for success in a harsh capitalist reality, without faulting himself:

It'’s a hard world to get a break in
All the good things have been taken
But girl there are ways
To make certain things pay
Though I'm dressed in these rags
I'll wear sable some day

But by 1970 Eric was singing lyrics like these with the band War:

This really blew my mind, the fact that me
an overfed, long-haired leaping gnome
should be the star of a Hollywood movie...
Spill the wine, take that pearl

Despite the fact that I'm an overfed wino myself, I still relate much more to It's My Life than to Spill The Wine. Guess I'm into realism. Plus, the Animals had matching suits. We love matching suits around here.

It'’s My Life

Spill The Wine

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